STRONGSVILLE – The Strongsville Women’s League held an event to introduce the community to the candidates who will appear on the ballot in the Nov. 5 general election.
Candidate’s Night has been held by the SWL for over 40 years. It gives each candidate for the local election an equal platform to answer questions that are submitted by residents. This year, there are five candidates running for three seats on the Strongsville City Schools Board of Education, and two candidates running for each of the four wards for Strongsville City Council.
The question-and-answer portion of the event was moderated by Penny Jeffrey from the League of Women Voters. Guests in attendance also had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with candidates. Residents who were not at the forum can still view it on the city’s public access channel 21.
Voting and ballot information can also be found on the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections website, boe.cuyahogacounty.us.
Board of educationCandidates for school board are Michelle Bissell, Carl Naso (incumbent), Richard Micko (incumbent), Jaclyn Saggio and Laura Wolfe-Housum.
Bissell is a stay-at-home parent. She and her husband founded Buckets of Hope for Tender Hearts, a nonprofit organization that gives support to people who have lost a child. She previously taught at the University of Akron as an adjunct lecturer in the English department.
“My world is schools,” Bissell said. “When I started asking the question, ‘Where is my skill set best going to fit and offer the most to the community?’ the obvious answer (was by serving on the school board).”
Micko has served on the board for eight years, and is also the current president of the Polaris Career Center board of education. He is the director of information technology at North Coast Container, and has been an independent computer consultant.
“I have experience as a parent – whether it’s special needs, mainstream or gifted – and I want to bring that approach to the school board. I think it would be good to keep someone like that on the school board,” Micko said.
Naso has been a member of the board for nine years and is currently serving as the board president. He has over 35 years of financial leadership experience, and works as the chief financial officer for the Port of Cleveland.
“I think the school board, working closely with our incredible administration, has been extremely successful in moving our three goals forward: student achievement, financial prudence and community involvement. Our schools are performing in the top 8 percent in the state and our school taxes are some of the lowest in the county,” Naso said. “This board has proven it can deliver. We have many great accomplishments, but there’s more to do.”
Saggio teaches preschool full-time, as well as teaching in the early childhood education departments at Cuyahoga Community College and Cleveland State University. She has a master’s degree in early childhood education.
“I’m here as a voice for the rights of the children. I have three children in school and I hear that recess gets taken away, there’s no time for lunch, behavior charts are on the wall, they can’t wash their hands… these are things I think children have the right to do and I think Strongsville is better than that. I believe Strongsville can be a stand out district if we focus on the rights of children,” Saggio said.
Wolfe-Housum has been a volunteer in various capacities in the school district. She has a background in logistics, and has been a stay-at-home mom for several years while being involved in many community organizations. She said she has been to every board meeting this year to educate herself about how it operates.
“Serving on the school board will be a good way for me to apply all that I have learned as a long-time volunteer in the schools. I have a strong relationship with the administration, teachers, and many children as a result of my past volunteer activities,” Wolfe-Housum said.
City councilJim Kaminski and Matt Patten (incumbent) will face off in Ward 1.
Kaminski recently retired from the Kellogg Company after 32 years in the business. He has been a member of the Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, city council, planning commission, economic development committee, and other organizations in the city. He was involved in the creation of the Freedom Trail when he previously served on council.
He said his top priorities include financial security and safety services.
“I’m ready to give the time that’s necessary to do this role at the highest level. I would be honored to serve as your Ward 1 councilperson,” Kaminski said.
Patten was appointed as Ward 1 councilman in 2018 following the passing of Councilman Mike Daymut. He previously served in the Ohio House of Representatives, the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission, helped the city secure grant funding to build youth baseball fields at Youth Sports Park, and helped the school district get into a buying consortium with ODOT. He said he hopes to continue the work he has done with residents and to focus on maintaining a strong safety force.
“I was very honored that I was selected by council (to fill the vacancy). That’s not something I take lightly at all. I worked hand-in-hand with Mike when I was in the statehouse. I’ve tried to pick up where he left off to find ways the city can serve the residents of Ward 1,” Patten said.
Ann Roff (incumbent) and Spenser Vago are vying for the Ward 2 seat.
Roff is a bus driver for the Strongsville schools. She is involved in volunteer activities with the schools’ athletic boosters and PTA, Hospice of the Western Reserve, and church outreach groups. She said her goal is to strengthen relationships with outside funding sources to bring money to local infrastructure projects.
“I believe that I have been available to my residents. I enjoy being available to my residents. I am somebody that cares,” Roff said.
Vago owns an insurance and financial agency. He has been involved with his homeowner’s association, church groups, Boy Scouts and the Strongsville Football League. He said his focus is on safety, streets, traffic and taxes.
“Many of you have heard the mayor say that if you don’t have a safe city, then you don’t have a city,” Vago said. “I’m humbled and honored to sit before you interviewing to be the Strongsville City Council Ward 2 representative.”
Kelly Kosek (incumbent) and Tim Zvoncheck are running for the Ward 3 seat.
Kosek has practiced law as a business litigator for 17 years. She chairs her law firm’s women’s leadership initiative, volunteers as a board member for the Cleveland Hearing and Speech Center, and is involved in local organizations. She recently sponsored legislation restricting minors from purchasing vaping products, was involved in a citywide movie night, and has worked to bring ADA-compliant playgrounds to the city.
“I’m running because I think residents want less urban sprawl and they want a better sense of community. I think they want traffic solutions and they want paved streets. It’s simple, and I share their concerns. My focus is always on the residents,” Kosek said.
Zvoncheck has been the commander of VFW Post 3345 for the past seven years. He served in the U.S. Navy for nearly 15 years, did three tours in the Middle East, served as a senior enlisted chief warfare specialist, and served as the reserve chief of police for a naval air station. He has worked in the manufacturing industry as the director of operations and then as divisional president before opening his own company in 1991.
“I’ve watched this city grow from a somewhat small, rural community to the economically sound city that it is today. We all know that this growth and stability didn’t happen by accident. It happened because of dedication and strong and decisive leadership. I believe my skills as a leader at many levels, plus my knowledge of business, finances and even law enforcement will allow me to help maintain Strongsville as an incredible place to live,” Zvoncheck said.
Jane Ludwig and Gordon Short (incumbent) will be on the ballot for Ward 4.
Ludwig has been on the board of education for the past six years. She spent more than a decade volunteering on school committees and has been an active member of the Strongsville Historical Society and Strongsville Optimist Club.
“The school district and the city operate separately, but it’s in the residents’ best interest if they have a positive relationship. I will continue to develop and maintain and strengthen that relationship,” Ludwig said. “I will bring a fresh set of eyes to the problems and issues in the city. If a resident contacts me, I will respond. Making wise choices for the city requires thoughtful input, and that starts with communicating with residents.”
Short has been a member of council since 2015. He is a licensed CPA and attorney in the state of Ohio, and has over 20 years of public accounting experience. He serves on the Strongsville Education Foundation and Knights of Columbus.
“In the last four years, the biggest thing we have accomplished is getting things done together as a team. We have a lot of diverse backgrounds, but we work well together. That teamwork and being able to work well with others has enabled us to save residents up to 70 percent in sewer projects, to attract high-paying jobs, and to continue to provide outstanding services to our residents,” Short said.